Summit School District touts success in keeping students healthy, urges community to stay vigilant
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the wording of a quote from Superintendent Marion Smith Jr.
KEYSTONE — Two months into the school year, Summit School District Superintendent Marion Smith Jr. and his team are preaching “persistence not perfection.”
Smith spoke at a virtual town hall for families within the district on Tuesday, Oct. 20. The town hall served as an opportunity for the district to provide an update on its operations and give a glimpse of what’s to come, as the first quarter of the year has come to an end.
Smith started the conversation by talking about the success of the district’s “return to learn plan,” which has most students learning in a hybrid model with some days online and some days in person.
“We’ve been able to really focus on offering multiple reopening scenarios that are really focusing on ensuring the health, the safety and the well-being of all of our scholars and staff,” Smith said.
So far, the district has seen one outbreak of two cases of the virus among staff members at Summit Middle School. It has been able to avoid any outbreaks among students, thanks to a system of quarantining whole groups of students, called cohorts, when a student shows symptoms.
The district was initially sharing information about cohorts in quarantine only with those who were directly affected. On Friday, Oct. 16, Smith announced that the district would start publicly reporting quarantines on its website. The information about quarantines will be updated at 5 p.m. each Friday.
While keeping students healthy this school year so far has been a success, the district is still coming up with new ways to help mitigate the spread of the virus in schools.
Included in the update was an announcement that the district will start providing on-site testing for the novel coronavirus within schools. The testing will become available Nov. 1 and will be administered through a cheek swab, Summit County Public Health Director Amy Wineland said. The tests will be administered only while a parent is present, she said.
“We can’t stress enough how important it is to get that test right away,” Wineland said. “The sooner you get tested or your child gets tested, that will determine the fate of the entire cohort.”
The district is also working to update its air circulation and ventilation systems, Chief Operations Officer Drew Adkins said. In addition to the district’s current air filtration systems in its buildings, it will be installing 1-inch Merv 13 air filters into its buildings and HEPA filters into classrooms, adding additional layers of protection when it comes to air filtration.
“So (there are) three layers of air protection as we learn a lot more about this virus,” Adkins said. “(We’re) making sure we’re focusing on the transmission of this disease.”
Smith also spoke about the professional development efforts the district has made. All staff in the district have participated in social and emotional learning classes, and teachers have been participating in classes on distanced learning and suicide prevention.
Students at all grade levels also have been participating in social and emotional learning. For elementary students, the district has been using the Second Step Program, which is focused on teaching students about empathy building and stress management, said Ellen Clark, student support services director.
• Colorado Crisis Services: 844-493-8255 or text “talk” to 38255
• For life-threatening emergencies, call 911
The district is also putting high school students through QPR training, which stands for question persuade refer and is aimed at suicide prevention, Clark said.
“(It) helps students to understand when their friends may have a suicide crisis and then how to refer those students to adults and help them,” she said.
Wineland also took the opportunity to caution district families against gatherings, as the district’s fall break is from Oct. 23-26.
“It’s really important that you stick to celebrating this weekend with only household members or maybe one other household and really keeping it limited,” she said.
The same logic applies to upcoming holidays, including Halloween, Wineland said. Because cases are rising in Summit County, it’s imperative that all community members are vigilant going forward, she said.
“We know that people are having COVID fatigue, but it’s important to understand that this virus does not have fatigue, and it’s going to continue to infect members of our community,” she said.
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As the Summit School District prepares for all online instruction, adults are focusing their attention on the health and well-being of the students.